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Letter to New Scientist

Here is my letter to New Scientist magazine, complaining about Roger Harrabin’s opinion piece, debunked here :-

Dear New Scientist,

Thank you for the refreshingly challenging opinion article about Climate Change scepticism authored by Roger Harrabin (“Take the political heat out of climate scepticism”, 18th June 2010, Issue 2764).

Your publication of this piece demands me complain about Roger Harrabin’s tactics of attempting to undermine Climate Change science by his careful insertion of fudged arguments into his writing.

The most dangerous, I suggest, is this : “Most agree with the scientific consensus that basic physics means CO2 will warm the planet by about 1 degree C above pre-industrial levels.”

The IPCC represent the scientific consensus. Roger Harrabin’s assertion is drawn from an argument made by Christopher Monckton, not the IPCC. Christopher Monckton is a Climate Change sceptic who has been shown to produce unreliable calculations. Roger Harrabin accepts Christopher Monckton’s conclusions, so his assertion is unreliable.

There are a number of significant errors in this one sentence from Roger Harrabin that should not be ignored.

1. Carbon Dioxide is not the only Greenhouse Gas, so Global Warming based on the impact of rising Carbon Dioxide levels should not be considered in isolation.

2. Global Warming inevitably alters the Earth system in ways that produce further warming. The initial radiative forcing pulse cannot be divorced from the positive feedback effects.

3. The “1 degree C” mentioned is in relation to a doubling of Carbon Dioxide concentrations in the Atmosphere in the short-term. Roger Harrabin does not consider the case that CO2 levels could rise higher than that, nor does he consider the longer-term warming that is projected based on “commitment” in the Earth system to past emissions, and the time delay in reaching equilibrium, and the long residence time of Carbon Dioxide in the Atmosphere.

4. The models of Global Warming projected beyond the year 2100 show the possibilities of a much higher temperature rise than merely “1 degree C”.

5. The “1 degree C” that Roger Harrabin mentions is actually a rounded down lowest value in a range in the literature, with a much higher top value.

6. The models of Global Warming are often calculated from a year 2000 starting point. By the year 2000, the Earth had already received something in the region of 0.6 degrees C of warming. So adding Roger’s “one degree” to that would put it closer to 2 degrees.

7. Most models and paleoclimate studies put Climate Sensitivity at 3 degrees C for a doubling of atmospheric Carbon Dioxide concentrations.

I could go on, but it shouldn’t be necessary. The BBC journalist Roger Harrabin is clearly not well-versed in Climate Change science. He shouldn’t think that drawing on the work of Christopher Monckton is valid science. He is entitled to his own opinions, but not his own facts, and I would like to see a correction to his assertion.


Ms J. Abbess BSc

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